collection, Equipment, Opinion, Perth, Product Stewardship, Professional Services, Tyres

Tyre recycling plant to be online soon

Melbourne-based Tyrecycle will be commissioning its new tyre recycling plant in East Rockingham, Perth, in March 2024. It had a successful cold commission at the end of 2023 and the company’s CEO Jim Fairweather couldn’t be happier with the $15 million plant.

Taking over from its existing plant in O’Connor, the new facility will be able to process 42,000 tonnes of tyres and create 7,000 tonnes of crumbed rubber annually, which can be used in making new roads in Western Australia. The rest will be exported to countries such as Japan as a tyre-derived fuel (TDF).

Fairweather is looking forward to the plant becoming up and running and the opportunities it will provide the business moving forward. 

“Importantly, this plant will be extremely flexible,” he said. “It means that in a market like WA, we can get crumb rubber to our clients more cost effectively because we make it there. But as well, Perth is a more expensive port to export from so it’s important that we have value added products that are made there for export. When we’ve used up the domestic demand, which we will do…then it’s important that we make a one-and-a-half inch TDF to help us go and secure structured long-term markets like Japan and Korea.”

Tyrecycle has signed five-year deals with large Japanese industrial companies Daicel and Nippon Paper, which will take its TDF. 

“It’s important that we can get access to these markets by building a plant where we can make products that can service those markets,” he said. “Nobody else makes this product in Australia.”

Fairweather said the Perth plant will be the largest, most technologically advanced, and flexible tyre recycling plant in Australia. He said it is almost a carbon copy of Tyrecycle’s Sydney Erskine Park plant – it has the same type of machinery but is bigger. 

And when it comes to innovation, investment and securing feedstock, Tyrecycle wait for nobody by getting on with business. In the months after the Perth plant is commissioned the company will be opening Australia’s first off-the-road tyre (OTR) facility at Port Hedland. Fairweather said that there’s almost 50,000 tonnes of OTR scrap in Port Hedland/Pilbara already.

“This plant in Perth will have the right equipment to be able to take the output from the Port Hedland plant, which will turn OTRs into dense 60 kilo chunks,” he said. “Although the two plants are independent from each other, they do have great interdependence between them.”

The form of transport being used to ferry the tyre chunks from Port Hedland to Perth will be trucks. Most trucks will already be taking product up to the Pilbara and usually come back empty, so Fairweather said it is a good use of resources to have the tyres trucked to the Perth plant. And while there is a legacy issue with thousands of OTRs buried around various mine sites in the region, Fairweather said it would be unfeasible for several reasons to dig them up and use them as feedstock. As well as being cost prohibitive, the dirt and rocks that would be attached to the tyres once they had been uncovered would be detrimental to the plant and machinery as they were being processed. However, there are actions he would like to see started by the state government.

“The WA Government has committed a lot of money to RMF funding and that’s been great,” he said. “Main Roads [the state government body responsible for the upkeep of roads] has generated a lot of demand – and remember that demand is the key. There’s lots of talk about extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, but the problem with that is that they focus entirely on the supply side, scooping up the tyres and landing them with recyclers. These systems then become all about building more recycling infrastructure, whereas it should be all about creating demand for recycled products. As demonstrated by Tyrecycle, the market is well placed to invest in infrastructure and secure feedstock to manufacture an in-demand product, but there needs to be a demand for the recycled product in first place. Without a market demand for recycled products, we’re operating amongst an artificial reality – wish-cycling with no genuine offtake streams for recycled material.”

Fairweather said another issue with EPR schemes is that they are often designed and run by manufacturers, not recyclers. 

He believes they have a lack of recycler representation in their governance structure, which is focused on driving the cost of recycling down rather than on recycling outcomes. 

“It might sound like semantics, but it’s absolutely a massive difference,” he said. “And the WA government got that bit right – government procurement has stepped up, and Main Roads WA is buying a heap of crumb rubber. And they made that market happen almost overnight. From that perspective it makes for a robust market in WA and because of that we’ve invested there. We can see the demand, so we’ll invest. If you get the policy settings right, you’ll generate investment.”

During COVID, Tyrecycle was having problems getting enough staff to process tyres at some of its plants due to a robust resources sector offering higher wages. The new plant will require extra staff to complement those that will be coming over from the O’Connor facility. Have they found the staff to fill those roles?

“We had 11 new roles to fill, and we’ve filled all of those,” said Fairweather. “All of our maintenance staff have been involved in building the plant. That’s really important for us in terms of security of operation and how well we run it. 

“With the Pilbara/Port Hedland plant we’ve had a lot of interest, but we’re holding that off because we’re not going to be up and running for a few months yet so we can’t employ as many people as we’d like at this time.”

As for the current state of the tyre recycling industry, Fairweather is fairly bullish in that he feels that export markets are starting to free up. 

“Paper companies like Nippon Paper want one and a half inch TDF, which has got no steel in it because it goes into their power boiler to generate electricity,” he said. 

“However, if we’re selling it to the cement companies in Japan, they want two-inch TDF with steel in it because they want the steel to go into their kiln, which means that they don’t have to put as much iron oxide into their process. It acts as a dual product – a fuel and raw material substitute.” 

Fairweather can’t wait for the new plant to come online. It is an exciting time for Tyrecycle, and he believes the service will help alleviate negative environmental impacts in WA.

“Overall, the team has done a fantastic job,” he said. “They’ve done an outstanding job. There’s over a $1 million dollars’ worth of fire suppression control systems. I’m just really proud of this plant.” 

Send this to a friend